ABC News' Teddy Davis reports:
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R) is wading into the looming Texas Senate race by throwing his support to state Railroad Commissioner Michael Williams.
"A conservative like Michael Williams comes along only so often," writes Gingrich in a fundraising solicitation for Williams. "He has the rare courage of someone who has fought the tough fights at a young age. He can take back the Democrats’ turf on issues like the environment, energy, education and the economy."
Williams, who is African American, is preparing to run for the Senate seat which is expected to become vacant if (and when) Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison resigns in order to focus full time on a gubernatorial run against Gov. Rick Perry, a fellow Republican.
Hutchison has said that a resignation will likely come in October or November of this year.
Gingrich is taking the unusual step of making an endorsement ahead of a potentially competitive GOP primary according to his spokesperson because he got to know Williams when he discussed energy policy as part of American Solutions, an annual event organized by Gingrich which tries to promote conservative public policies with strong levels of support among Republicans, Democrats, and independents. As Texas Railroad Commissioner, Williams helps regulate the state's oil and gas industry.
Multiple Texas Republicans are eyeing Hutchison's seat but the GOP field is unsettled as Senate hopefuls wait to see whom Perry chooses to replace his gubernatorial rival.
The top two Democrats eyeing the Senate race are former Comptroller John Sharpe and Houston Mayor Bill White.
While Perry has not yet signaled whom he is going to choose for the Senate seat, the Williams campaign is already honing its pro-Perry pitch in the hopes of snagging the appointment.
"We need more Texas in Washington not more Washington in Texas," Williams campaign manager Corbin Casteel told ABC News.